December 20, 2013

Fantasia 2013 bits, part three

Saving General Yang (Ronny Yu, 2013)


Betrayed by a fellow general and captured behind enemy lines, the seven sons of the eponymous General Yang leave their family's stronghold to save their father from an enemy out for revenge, and bring him home. With director Ronny Yu at the helm, and based on a popular Chinese tale, Saving General Yang lives up to expectations, delivering magnificent sword-fights and dazzling martial arts scenes as well as overarching battle sequences. But, as enjoyable as the movie is, the extended arm of the Chinese government is always felt, the imperative of nation-building ever present, and it is starting to affect the relevance of these films. After the national hero created in the Ip Man movies, as well as those in movies like Bodyguards and Assassins (Teddy Chan, 2009) for example, the infusion of government funds into the Chinese mainstream film industry may well destroy its appeal internationally.

INFO: Saving General Yang (IMDB)



Helter Skelter (Mika Ninagawa, 2012)


Helter Skelter tells the story of a young pop star and the excess beauty can bring, as well as the vanity and horror hidden beneath the veneer of fame. Based on a best-selling manga, Helter Skelter gets underneath your skin, showing how we have built a culture around the veneration of beauty, however fleeting physical beauty is. It is concurrently repulsive and extreme but at others pleasing and touching. It will be hard for any other movie this year to arouse so many conflicting emotions. It's definitely one of the festival's best films.




The Library Wars (Shinsuke Sato, 2013)

In the future, in order to control smut, the government passes a law allowing for a police force to monitor book content. The only safe haven for books deemed hazardous are the libraries, protected by an elite security force whose mandate is to safeguard the libraries. With obvious reference to Fahrenheit 451 (François Truffaut, 1966), The Library Wars decides early on that it wants to appeal to a (too) broad demographic. Where the premise suggests intense action scenes during the confrontations between the government and the library forces, these scenes are as engrossing as watching a game of checkers from a distance. What may have worked as a manga feels ridiculous in live-action. You would do well to steer clear of this movie.

INFO: The Library Wars (IMDB)